A member of the U.S. fencing team knelt on the podium during the national anthem and medal ceremony Friday at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, saying on Twitter: "We must call for change.”
Race Imboden, an Olympic medalist and part of the men’s foil team that won gold at the Pan American Games, wrote on Twitter that he was honored to represent Team USA at the event, but his pride was “cut short” by “shortcomings” of his country.
“Racism, Gun Control, mistreatment of immigrants, and a president who spreads hate are at the top of a long list," he wrote in a series of tweets. "I chose to [sacrifice] my moment today at the top of the podium to call attention to issues that I believe need to be addressed. I encourage others to please use your platforms for empowerment and change.”
At the Pan American Games, Imboden, 26, shared bronze in men’s foil with Canadian Maximilien van Haaster. He was part of the American team that won gold in team foil with Gerek Meinhardt and Nick Itkin. His two teammates stood as the national anthem played.
“Every athlete competing at the 2019 Pan American Games commits to terms of eligibility, including to refrain from demonstrations that are political in nature. In this case, Race didn’t adhere to the commitment he made to the organizing committee and the USOPC,” Mark Jones, vice president of communications for the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee, said in a statement Saturday, according to the Associated Press.
The statement continued: “We respect his rights to express his viewpoints, but we are disappointed that he chose not to honor his commitment. Our leadership are reviewing what consequences may result.”
Another American athlete, hammer thrower Gwen Berry, raised her fist during the national anthem Saturday, according to reports. NBC Sports reported that the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee issued the same statement after Berry demonstrated.
“Somebody has to talk about the things that are too uncomfortable to talk about. Somebody has to stand for all of the injustices that are going on in America and a president who’s making it worse,” Berry told USA Today.
The demonstrations happened amid a larger national discussion on issues that include gun control, which came in the wake of recent shooting rampages in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio. Amid that discussion, some have noted President Trump’s tweets and remarks about immigrants. The suspect in the El Paso shooting, which left 22 people dead, told authorities that he was targeting “Mexicans,” according to police.
This month, Philadelphia Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya grabbed a field-level microphone and implored Congress to address gun violence. San Antonio Spurs and Team USA men’s basketball coach Gregg Popovich has also spoken out.
“It’d be a lot better if people in power got off their a---- and got something done," he told reporters.
Golden State Warriors Coach Steve Kerr, who is an assistant coach for Team USA, told reporters that “somebody could walk in the door in the gym right now” and open fire.
“It might happen because we’re all vulnerable, whether we go to a concert, a church, the mall or go to the movie theater or a school,” he said. “It’s up to us as Americans to demand change from the gutless leadership that continues to allow this to happen and continues to somehow claim the Second Amendment is doing its job. The Second Amendment is about the right to defend yourself. The only thing that Second Amendment is doing is leading to mass murder right now. This is all just insanity.”
“Hey, Congress, do something now!" Bedoya said into the mic. "End gun violence! Let’s go!”
Afterward, Bedoya told reporters that he wanted to see immediate change.
“I’m not going to sit idly by and wait for things to happen 50 years from now,” Bedoya said
This week, another athlete — Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills — also drew attention for his criticism of Trump. Stills chastised Dolphins team owner Stephen Ross on Twitter for hosting a fundraiser for Trump’s reelection campaign while also supporting Ross’s namesake nonprofit that advocates for racial justice and anti-discrimination measures.
“You can’t have a non profit with this mission statement then open your doors to Trump,” Stills tweeted.
He said Thursday after a preseason game during which he, too, knelt during the national anthem that he received death threats over his comments but was undeterred.
“Someone has to have enough courage to let him know he can’t play both sides of this,” Stills said, via ESPN. “It’s something that I can look back on and say I made the right decision. Maybe I shouldn’t have done it on social media, but I did. If you’re going to associate yourself with bad people, then people are going to know about it. I put it out there for everybody to see it.
“If you say you’re going to be about something, let’s be about it.”